As an architecture student today, you have a lot of tools at your disposal. The industry is becoming more tech-centric than ever, so there's an abundance of new and exciting digital processes to use for your projects. One of the most helpful yet underutilized of these is Building Information Modeling (BIM).
BIM has seen remarkable growth among architecture firms, but it hasn't had the same impact in schools. You've probably at least heard of it before but may never have used it. Most architecture students face a few barriers in their way of trying it out.
Here are the top five reasons why architecture students like you avoid BIM and why you should try it.
1. Other Methods Are "More Fun"
You could've gotten into architecture for any number of reasons. No matter what your drive was, though, part of the reason is probably that you enjoy it. That could also be your reason for sticking to physical models or hand drawn sketches. These more traditional methods can seem more fun.
BIM can be just as engaging, exciting, and versatile as these other methods. In a way, BIM software is the most challenging and creative computer game there is. Working in these programs is a lot like creating things in "The Sims" or "Minecraft," but with real-world applications and tangibility.
Creating things with BIM software gives you the same sense of pride as creating things with other methods, but with more freedom. The possibilities of what you can create are endless, and data-driven digital tools help you turn your imagination into practical designs. You can see your ideas become realities and render in real-time. Moreover, the program takes away the hassle of separately drawing elevations and other elements.
When Architecture student Pauline Mestdagh first began her project she was asked to create a physical model.
2. Schools or Instructors Don't Require BIM
Some architecture students won't use BIM software for their projects because their instructors don't require it. In other cases, professors and tutors may simply not know about the program or its applications because they're not actively practicing architecture or don't have experience in the field outside academia.
If you've never used a tool before, it's understandable that you wouldn't use it unless you had to. While you may not have to use these tools in school, it's a good idea to try them out at this stage.
Architecture education has fallen behind the industry in this area. Professionals have found that there's widespread resistance in upper education to BIM instruction, despite its extensive use among architects. Some operate under the mistaken impression that adding such a tool to their workflow would stifle creativity. Your instructors may not require you to use BIM for your projects, but you'll find things are different once you graduate.
While BIM adoption in schools in some countries may be low, it's a different story among architecture companies. As of 2015, between 60% and 70% of large firms reported using at least one BIM program. Other sources show that the 70% adoption rate holding steady in 2019. These tools have become an industry standard, so getting experience with them now can help you succeed later.
Architecture student Pauline Mestdagh chose to use BricsCAD to build several of her student projects. She discovered that it was much easier and faster to experiment with the design in BricsCAD. She could quickly manipulate the room size, wall angles, and the facade, without starting from scratch.
3. BIM Is More Crucial Than You Might Think
Another reason architecture students may not use BIM software is that they think it's not all that important. Physical models and 2D floor plans have worked for decades, so they're suitable alternatives to complete BIM models, right? While that seems like a reasonable argument, the process of BIM is far more crucial for the construction industry than you may realize.
BIM is about more than just designing buildings differently. It can also highlight potential errors so you can fix them before they become more severe problems later. These can include anything from inefficient designs to safety concerns. Since one in five workplace deaths happen in construction, preventing these hazards is a must.
Preventing these errors also saves construction teams a lot of time and money. All of these benefits make BIM an essential part of the design process for many companies. Learning to use it now can help you bring value to future employers, and not knowing how to use it could be a disadvantage.
Section views can be automatically generated in seconds.
4. BIM Can Be Extremely Helpful
You may understand how BIM can help you later, but what about right now? Some students may avoid getting into it because they'll likely learn it later when they start their professional careers. If you start learning how to use BIM software now, though, it can be a helpful resource for your entire architectural education.
Since BIM software is such an engaging, multi-dimensional tool, it can give you a better understanding of design concepts and challenges. Models made with BIM data provide far more data-driven insights than other methods and give a comprehensive view of projects that you couldn't get anywhere else.
Architectural students tend to be siloed from other disciplines, like engineering, while in an educational setting. BIM is at its core a collaborative tool, which helps explain why you may not have had exposure to it. But that same exposure would help "un-silo" many of these disciplines and surface the ways in which they impact each other, beginning in university or trade school.
In a 2019 survey, 59.4% of architecture students said using BIM helped them learn construction science. Similarly, 62.5% said it helped them understand more about the nature of building components. Learning through BIM can help you better understand architectural concepts as a whole, helping you through your entire education.
If you've never used CAD software before BIM software can seem intimidating.
5. BIM Can Seem Intimidating Despite the Rewards
Even if you recognize all of these other benefits, you may still feel hesitant about BIM. That could be because it seems too complicated to jump into all at once. Since so few schools emphasize it, you may have no experience with similar software, making it an intimidating step. Nevertheless, if you do use BIM software as a student, you'll be well-prepared for, and have experience with, the process of generating a 3D model. That skill will be in high demand in the real working world, and it facilitates cooperation with contractors.
Thankfully, learning how to use BIM software isn't as complicated a process as it may seem. Most of these tools are user-friendly by design, so you can get the hang of them fairly quickly. You can also find an abundance of free resources online plus free academic licenses to help you learn the ins and outs of this software.
Since BIM is so widely used, you should be able to find help without any trouble. There are probably people, either instructors or fellow students, in your program who can help you learn the ropes of BIM. You can find an abundance of accessible and highly useful resources on YouTube, as well. Once you start, you may be surprised how quickly you learn how to use these resources.
Every Architecture Student Should Incorporate BIM Software Into Their Work
Architecture is becoming increasingly digital, and that should translate into the classroom. You may have a list of reasons why you haven't started using BIM yet, but as you can see here, they all fall short. There are many misconceptions about BIM, and when you can see through them, you'll understand how critical a workflow this is.
No matter your background or what you're used to, modeling in BIM software can help you in your education and beyond. Architecture school is the best time to learn the concepts and pick up modeling in BIM software, so you can have an extra skillset on top of your peers when you graduate and seek to work at the best design practices.